Quantcast

NPS union leaders decry ‘extreme’ work environment, ask BoE to ‘constantly inquire’

Screenshot from Tuesday’s Zoom broadcast of the Norwalk Board of Education meeting. From left are Norwalk Federation of Education Personnel (NFEP) President Hope Coles, Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon and Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) President Lynne Moore. Norwalk Public Schools has added live transcriptions to its BoE meeting videos.

NORWALK, Conn. — The negative tone, the distrust, the disrespect and the overwork all add up to “no way to run a (school) district,” leaders of three unions told the Norwalk Board of Education on Tuesday.

The Board of Education Coalition, representing unionized administrators, certified teachers, custodians and others, was formed during the pandemic and “continues to be useful to navigate the extreme experience of working under Dr. Estrella and her Central Office team,” Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon said, flanked at the City Hall lectern by Norwalk Association of School Administrators (NASA) President Lynne Moore and Norwalk Federation of Education Personnel (NFEP) President Hope Coles.

“Our message is simple. We need more trust and respect in this district. Trust us to understand how to do our work and respect us as professionals and dedicated employees,” Yordon said, reading a prepared statement.

Moore and Coles said nothing.

Although Norwalk Public Schools in its strategic plan promises to support faculty and staff, “the reality is that very little credit is given to the professional skills or dedication of staff and faculty. Decisions are handed down from Central Office with little explanation and no input,” Yordon continued. “…A respectful culture does not pile 14 hours of work into an eight-hour workday, or have a person do two jobs and then criticize and hold accountable for missing details. A respectful culture understands that we have personal lives and needs and those lives sustain us to do our work on behalf of students.”

The Coalition asked that Board of Education members “constantly inquire” about the origin of plans presented by the administration – did any employee groups contribute to their development?

Yordon suggested questions:

  • How much is expected to be done unpaid beyond the contractual workday for the success of this initiative?”
  • Why is it unpaid work?”
  • Why is this initiative beginning mid-year and with no notice, instead of a strategically planned rollout?”

 

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella was not in the room when Yordon spoke to the Board. There was no comment in response, save for BoE member Erica DePalma characterizing “mainstream teachers” as being overworked. Budget cuts could expand classroom sizes and exacerbate the situation, she said.

On Wednesday, Estrella released a statement to NancyOnNorwalk:

“Coming from a very collaborative relationship with union leadership in my prior district, I understood the importance of establishing the same type of rapport in Norwalk. The union coalition formed prior to my arrival as superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools with the purpose of addressing issues and concerns that they had with the district.

“It has been my focus to support our staff and enhance their development so they can provide the best education for our students. In doing so, we have formed a number of collaborative and informational circles to hear from different stakeholders in the district.

“For example, over the last two school years, we have held monthly roundtable discussions with principals, assistant principals, teachers and paraeducators alike to discuss ways in which we could most effectively support them and discuss the impact of initiatives and supports that we could put in place to enhance their work.

“These monthly conversations have yielded significant modifications and shifts to professional development, parent teacher conference calendars, holidays, and other professional priorities such as more planning time. These are a few examples of how we’ve looked for staff feedback because we value their personal time and perspectives.

“Our Principal Shout Outs at monthly board business meetings highlight the outstanding work being done in our individual schools and the incredible people – teachers, paraeducators, counselors, social workers, principals, and support staff – who make it happen on a daily basis.

“For example, Fox Run Principal Carla Monteiro-Walsh highlighted not only the amazing programs in her school such as Wingman and Mindfulness Fridays but also the instructional time built into the school day that directly resulted in Fox Run significantly improving its Next Generation Accountability Index scores.

“This is one of many examples illustrated every month during the superintendent’s report of the board meetings.

“I look forward to continuing to collaborate with all union leaders as we venture into a very challenging budgetary cycle and focusing our work to secure the funding that we need to ensure all our personnel can continue to proudly serve the students of Norwalk.”

 

 

Neither Yordon nor Moore responded to a Wednesday email inviting them to elaborate on their complaints.

Reminder: NancyOnNorwalk requires full names from commenters. For more information, go here.

8 comments

Jenn McMurrer January 19, 2023 at 7:14 am

It is my experience as a boss that listening to your employees and respecting them is free and very effective. What the district gets this budget cycle or any other one should not impact how their employees are treated.

Skip Hagerty January 19, 2023 at 7:32 am

As Lynne Moore said, more needs to be done for the teachers. Based on what she said, these teachers are overworked and underpaid. Given all the rainy day funds and Covid relief money, coupled with the record state surplus, it only makes sense that these funds be allocated to higher teacher pay. And, I am sure that Bob Duff can help. If he is able to get hundreds of millions of dollars for a new high school, I am sure he can get the state to give Norwalk money for teacher raises and even solar panels for the new school.

John O'Neill January 19, 2023 at 9:34 am

Many many amusing thoughts are running through my head this morning:
1) First I would like to congratulate both Hope and Lynn for knowing the best attorneys in the area,and cashing in on the Norwalk Lawsuit lottery over the years.
2) That hearing aid I wished for Mary Yordon’s Christmas Gift may have finally arrived — Congratulations, she seems to be listening… a little.
3) The most important factor in school system burnout is not the work. IT’S THE LACK OF RESPECT. IT’S THE LACK OF DISCIPLINE. IT’S THE LACK OF STUDENT ACCOUNTABILTITY. IT’S THE LACK OF PARENTING. It’s time to be honest.
4) Congratulations to Dr. Estrella — In this instance she’s able to deflect the criticism WHILE asking for more money in funding at the same time !! Congratulations to her. Some may not like her but don’t underestimate her political savvy…
5) Looking into my crystal ball I see a number of things:
A) A lawsuit of course — That’s easy to predict. Norwalk Schools are due
B) The beginning of a posturing going into contract
negotiations
C) Did someone say Vendetta? Teachers know this is the current culture…
And then another lawsuit.
D) Change of Leadership at the Union Level? Maybe

No matter what happens it will certainly be explosive..

Benjamin Gates January 19, 2023 at 10:37 am

Even the teachers and custodial staff agree that Estrella needs to go! She has been a disaster and the BOE really should cut their losses and move on. The BOE and taxpayers of Norwalk would be shocked how things could change for the good under the right leader.

All Estrella has done is run up legal bills, hire her NYC friends, add administrators instead of teachers, and waste money on dumb projects that arent needed. We should charge her for the damage she has done to NPS.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, could do a better job that her.

Alexandrea Kemeny January 19, 2023 at 11:16 am

“Coming from a very collaborative relationship with union leadership in my prior district, I understood the importance of establishing the same type of rapport in Norwalk” The quote above from Superintendent Estrella.
Perhaps, Union Representatives should look back into the Superintendent’s last job. Check out Chaz’s School Daze on Thursday, August 31, 2017. It says, “Why Alexandra Estrella, As well as others, Should not be a Superintendent” It seems the search committee did not do their due diligence in search for a Superintendent. Or did they? Was their goal to break the Unions and get a micro-manager? If so, she has “established the same rapport in Norwalk.”

Tysen Canevari January 19, 2023 at 8:04 pm

Its ironic that the Super points out how well Fox Run is doing with its various programs. Under the direction of Carla Walsh (the principal) the school is flourishing. Thats because she was promoted from within and knows her students, their families, and cares about her community. She is a fine example of what can be done. We dont need all of your friends from New York and their high rated salaries. Give the money to the people in the trenches that care about the kids. Dr Estrella certainly doesnt fall in that category. Instead you want more money to cover your lawsuits while we struggle to buy crayons for the kingergarten classes!

Bryan Meek January 19, 2023 at 8:45 pm

I guess $118k a year isn’t enough to deal with tough management. This isn’t a knock on the majority who really love what they do and care, but you might want to get a better argument considering the 14 weeks of paid vacation that come with the job?

Drew Todd January 20, 2023 at 1:17 pm

Why wasn’t Estrella in the room when Mary Spoke!? She should have waited and looked her directly in the eyes! Kudos for Mary and Co finally standing up and saying something that has been brewing for almost 3 years and they need to keep the pressure on full until Estrella gets the message.
Erica – How Dare You say we are going to have to make budget cuts, expanded classrooms are you serious!? Before any of those things happen the board better start really evaluating the Needs and Wants before 1 cut is made in our schools.

@skip John, Bryan & Alex all your comments/posts are 100 accurate! Thank You!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>